MONTREAL — Wild general manager Bill Guerin admitted that he will likely be on the lookout for a forward when free agency opens next week.
Maybe the biggest reason for that is Guerin expects unrestricted free agents Nic Deslauriers and Nick Bjugstad to hit the market.
It’s not that the Wild don’t want to sign them. It’s more that the Wild probably can’t afford either.
“We like both players,” Guerin said. “We’ll see what happens.”
There’s a very good chance the Wild get priced out of Deslauriers, who made $1 million last season and will be looking for a raise. The same thing could be true for Bjugstad, who made $900,000 last season and might want more money than the Wild can offer.
In a cup of coffee with the Wild last season after being acquired at the trade deadline, Deslauriers quickly emerged as a fan favorite largely because of his physical style. As for Bjugstad, the former Gophers star from Blaine has been with the hometown Wild for the past couple of seasons, playing a depth role up front.
While the Wild will be looking to add another player up front, top prospect Marco Rossi appears ready to contribute at the NHL level, too. He spent last season with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, gaining valuable experience that will help him in the long run.
And Rossi is going to be given every opportunity to start next season in the NHL.
“It’s up for grabs, and he’s got to take it,” Guerin said. “I expect him to rise to that occasion. You guys know him by now. He’s a character kid. He knows what he’s doing. I expect him to come in in great shape and ready to go.”
Talking to Wild coach Dean Evason this week, it sounds like if Rossi makes the team, he will be given a prominent role in the lineup. He certainly has a skill set that could help in many facets of the game.
“We’re not afraid to put him in a position right away,” Evason said. “If we think he’s going to be able to play in that position, we’re going to put him in that position. Let’s see how he reacts and how he handles it.”
While it’s clear the Wild are doing their best to not say the wrong thing regarding the Kirill Kaprizov situation in his native Russia, it’s clearly got everyone’s attention. Asked about it on Thursday, Evason admitted the whole thing has him on edge.
“It’s scary for all of us,” he said. “It’s a scary situation in our world. To see somebody as close as we know Kirill, yeah, it’s a scary situation. We hope it all gets sorted out correctly.”